Sunday, January 15, 2012

Be Odd


I'm taken with the idea of doing odd things. More than ever I'm coming to believe that being odd is the only way to get interesting things done. I'm trying to be more odd as I get older and I think that it's paying off.

I run barefoot. Today I went out for six and a half miles. I'm visiting my in-laws in Spring Glen, NY, a tiny town in the Catskills. It was twenty degrees when I set out and I got a few looks from the people around the dining room table as I was going out. I was wearing shorts, a jacket, a hat, and no shoes. Of course I was going to get some looks. In modern America, it's odd to go out and run when I could just as soon sit and watch television or drive somewhere in the car. It's odder still to go out in the cold and run when it's toasty inside the house. But to go outside, in the cold, without a pair of shoes is damn odd and strange in the extreme.

But it works for me.

I did that run and it felt good. I came home feeling better than before I left. The people around the table were surprised at me still, but I didn't feel any need to explain myself or try to convert them to my way of thinking. Instead, it was just about doing something that works for me regardless of how odd it might seem.

Running barefoot is nothing to crow about, but neither is it something I shouldn't do just because it is odd to do it. The shoe companies want me to wear really expensive shoes because that's how they make their money. But money is another area I'm interested in applying some oddness.

I've taken lately to not giving even half a damn about the economy. This may be short-sighted of me, but I'm trying to make it into a long-sighted idea. Every morning, NPR runs a bunch of stories about how much we're spending, how we need consumers to consume more, and so on. I think that it's all nonsense much in the same way that I think that cushioned running shoes are nonsense.

I would like to spend less money. I would like to support the economy a lot less. I would like to think of things in an odd way. For this reason and many more, I'm not going to buy an iPad or other tablet computer. It's why I'm thrilled that my friend shared her old iPhone with me so that I didn't have to pay to upgrade. It's why I was happy to give my friend the accessories from the old MacBook that we used to have so that he and his wife didn't have to buy anything.

The barter system seems to me a good start. I lent my friend my old West Wing DVDs so that she wouldn't buy them. I borrow books from the library so that my family and I don't buy them. (Oh, and my Kindle gathers dust in the basement because I'm unwilling to buy books to put on it.) My wife and I are trying to eat in and invite people over more often rather than going out to restaurants. We save money in every way on that and it turns out that we have a lot more fun and spend more time together. Go figure.

In fact, go figure. That's what I'm trying to do this year: figure out what I'm spending on and why, figure out where I can stop spending or redirect my spending.

We don't have much in the way of cable, just the basic channels because we were never able to get them over the air at our house. I'm going to try my brother's HD antenna and see if we can cut the cable completely. We own our cars outright and aren't in the least interested in upgrading or trading in. We keep the heat in the house fairly low and we don't have air conditioning.

Still, some things are tough to go without. We like our dishwasher. We often drive when we could walk. And I'm not sure how I would do without high-speed Internet. The goal isn't to get rid of everything but to get to be aware of what we are doing so that we understand what is and is not necessary. I'm looking to examine options and one of the best ways I can think to structure that is to be odd. Going the standard way, doing the accepted things is a road to ruin. Being odd seems a way to happiness.

The last time I had fast food was November 29, 2001. Odd, right? Not really. In fact, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. If eating McDonald's food while sitting in my SUV as the kids in the back watch Disney DVDs and I talk on my cell phone is normal, well then I want to be as odd as can be. I want to be odd and healthy and happy too. And as always, I want to, oddly enough, write on.